May 20, 2009
NASA astronauts who serviced the Hubble Space Telescope this week have wrapped up their work and are preparing to return to Earth on Friday.
Astronauts Andrew Feustel and John Grunsfeld completed the work on the Hubble on Monday during the last of five spacewalks on the STS-125 mission. The Atlantis shuttle crew completed all of the mission's objectives, adding new instruments, making repairs, and replacing battery modules and a fine guidance sensor, NASA said. The work is expected to extend the Hubble's operations through at least 2014, while NASA faces a gap in its shuttle programs. The astronauts spent nearly 37 hours on spacewalks to complete the repair work during the 11-day mission. On Tuesday, they used the shuttle's robotic arm to lift the Hubble out of the shuttle's payload bay and move the telescope to the edge of the shuttle. Ground crews commanded the telescope to open its aperture door and Atlantis finally released the Hubble just before 8 a.m. EDT Tuesday. It will take about four months to check and calibrate the instruments before the Hubble can resume scientific observations, NASA said. The shuttle's robotic arm helped inspect the heat shield to ensure safe re-entry. The astronauts hope to land at the Kennedy Space Center early Friday when weather forecasts indicate that conditions are right. On Wednesday, astronauts spoke with media located at various NASA centers and called Expedition 19 crewmembers who are aboard the International Space Station. They include Cmdr. Gennady Padalka and flight engineers Mike Barratt and Koichi Wakata.
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